Sens. Chris Coons, a Democrat, and John Cornyn, a Republican, said they are working on bipartisan legislation — including an infrastructure bill that would split the nearly $2 trillion package to rebuild roads and bridges and tackle how to pay for the improvements later.
Coons of Delaware said the strategy would be to pass the core $800 billion infrastructure component by a 60-vote bipartisan effort, and then later take up the other initiatives in the package — including those in Biden’s soon-to-be-announced American Families Plan — on a party-line vote.
Asked on “Fox News Sunday” by host Chris Wallace what’s in it for Republicans, he said the “broader question” is “what’s in it for our country and what’s in it for the people we represent from our states if Republicans and Democrats work together to solve problems?”
“I think that if we come together in a bipartisan way to pass that $800 billion hard infrastructure bill that you were talking about, that I’ve been urging, then we show our people that we can solve their problems,” Coons continued.
He said that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have long understood that the country’s infrastructure needs to be repaired, “we just disagree about how to pay for it.”
Wallace asked Cornyn if the GOP could act on a bipartisan basis to approve the infrastructure component and then allow Democrats to move ahead on a party-line vote on how to pay for it, including raising the corporate tax rate.
Cornyn, of Texas, said Coons is “half right.”
“There is a core infrastructure bill that we could pass with appropriate pay-fors, like roads and bridges and even reaching out to broadband, which we’ve — this pandemic has exposed a great digital divide in this country. … I think we could all agree to that,” he said.
“But I think that’s the part we would agree on. So let’s do it and leave the rest for another day and another fight,” he added.
Cornyn said Republicans were initially “encouraged” by Biden’s inaugural address in January, in which he talked about healing divisions in the country and his appeals to national unity.
“Unfortunately … with 30 executive orders and a partisan $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that only 10 percent of which was actually COVID-19 relief, we’re not off to a great start,” Cornyn said.
He admitted that he and Coons are working on bipartisan legislation on gun background checks and to expand AmeriCorps in the narrowly divided 50-50 Senate.
“The truth is, it’s very hard to get anything done in the Senate unless it is bipartisan. There are some exceptions to the rule. But in a 50/50 Senate, neither party has a mandate and so we simply have to work together to make progress where we can,” he said.
Coons said having Democrats and Republicans coming together would send a bold message to the country’s enemies.
“The worst thing that could happen to Xi Jinping, that would ruin his day, would be for him to see Republicans and Democrats working together in the Senate and the House to solve the problems facing the American people, in partnership with President Biden,” he said, referring to the Chinese president.